Anti-Gay Slurs at BlizzCon 2011

The BlizzCon logo.

Earlier today, a reader sent us a link to the Blizzard forums that contained some disturbing news. The closing ceremonies at BlizzCon this past weekend included a performance by metal band Cannibal Corpse; before they started, however, Blizzard employees showed a video of the lead singer talking about World of Warcraft, namely how much he hates the Alliance faction. The problem is, he used homophobic slurs to do so. The video had the swearing censored, but people could still tell what he was saying, and the original uncensored version is available online. GayGamer has both videos and more of the story. Tiny dancer points out,

Many are disturbed that a senior Blizzard employee endorsed a video saying that players of one faction should die – and still more are outraged that anti-gay speech was used in the promotional video, without regard for LGBT players and despite the fact that gay kids are killing themselves.

Blizzard shouldn’t be endorsing this sort of behavior or this sort of language. Blizzard employees are leaders of a very large community, and when community leaders endorse certain kinds of language or behavior, they give license to members of the community to do the same things. It doesn’t matter whether it was meant as a joke; even if Blizzard isn’t homophobic themselves, the community of World of Warcraft is enormous and undoubtedly contains many people who are bigots that hate queer people. And now those people think you, Blizzard, agree with them and are on their side, and that you think homophobic slurs are okay; this encourages them to harass queer players and use slurs that make queer players feel unsafe and unwelcome.

This is absolutely shameful, and Blizzard has yet to offer any sort of real apology. Readers can sign this petition demanding a real apology. Siannan MacDuff, who created the petition, writes in her letter:

But we live in a world where young people are bullied into suicide because of their expressed or perceived sexuality. Many of these young people play WoW as a source of escapism. It is a safe assumption that at least ten percent of your customer base are GLBTQ, and many more of them are allies of those minorities. I myself am a bisexual woman. One of my main characters is a female dwarven rogue that I roleplay as being in a same-sex domestic partnership.

To see Sam Didier up on stage endorsing that kind of language, albeit “bleeped”, was heartbreaking.

21 thoughts on “Anti-Gay Slurs at BlizzCon 2011”

  1. Quick note of clarification:

    “The closing ceremonies at BlizzCon this past weekend included a performance by metal band Cannibal Corpse”

    The band performing was the Blizzard band “Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain”, which is comprised of various Blizzard employees. The actual band “Cannibal Corpse” did not perform at Blizzcon. The person responsible for the homophobic comments was George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, the lead singer of the death metal band Cannibal Corpse. The comments were made during an interview filmed in 2007, of which a brief, heavily-bleeped clip was shown prior to the band performance. Fisher was then introduced as a guest performer for the band’s next performance.

    I do think that the inclusion of Fisher was a mistake, however I don’t believe Blizzard meant to seem malicious or insensitive, especially since earlier during one of the WoW Q&A sessions, a young lesbian woman stood up and specifically asked the development team about LGBT representation within WoW, and received respectful consideration of her question (http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/3424466975)

    Overall, I think it’s an unfortunate situation that’s been created, and hopefully Blizzard can do something to resolve the issue satisfactorily. :-/

    1. Thanks for the clarification about the band.

      As I wrote in the post, it really doesn’t matter what Blizzard meant. They’re still setting an awful example to their community by acting as if that language is funny and acceptable. They should be condemning slurs and asking their players to report people who use them (and then DOING SOMETHING about the reports). Then WoW might actually be a little safer for queer folks.

    2. Almost seemed a bit ironic that they aired that after answering her question in so reasonable of a manner.  And their “fauxpology” doesn’t help, especially seeing as they seem to still be under the impression that people are angry about faction-baiting.

      It should also be noted that the hostility on the WoW forums went through the roof once when that fan asked her question, and again when people first started calling out the Fisher video.

  2. Two things strike me about the vid:

    ONE: This is just… fucking juvenile. A lot of gamers are now in their thirties and we’re kind of annoyed at the culture of sexism and homophobia around gaming and we’re fed up of being seen as stunted adolescents. Then Blizzard decide to hold a celebration and what do they do? Get in a metal band and roar in approval as a guy called ‘Corpsegrinder’ makes dumb homophobic comments. Metal and queer-bashing… wow Blizzard, want to give a big shout out to beer bongs and jerking off while you’re at it?

    TWO: I have a penis. A cock you might say. As someone who possesses a cock, I genuinely struggle to see why cocksucker should be a term of abuse. Surely if you possess a cock then a cocksucker is a good person to know? Rather than championing homophobia, let’s sing the praises of cock-sucking! Cock-sucking… Woooooo!

    Yes… I know that it’s a status thing. Once upon a time men were secretaries and it was fine to be a secretary then women started becoming secretaries and the title lost prestige. Same thing with cock-sucking… it’s bad because women and non-straight men do it. I understand the sociology, but it’s still bloody stupid.

    Were this any other type of event, I’d be happy to look the other way. The guy was interviewed, he was passionate and he’s clearly an unreconstructed tosspot… but then what do you expect from a guy who calls himself ‘Corpsegrinder’? But given that a lot of gamers are sick and tired of the culture of sexism and homophobia surrounding gaming that video really made my heart sink. Really guys? A metal band and homophobic comments? Want to give a big shout-out to jerking off while you’re at it? How. Fucking. Juvenile.

    Also, I’d like to see a defence of cock-sucking. As someone who possesses a cock, I really don’t see why ‘cocksucking’ should be a term of abuse. Surely a ‘cocksucker’ is a wonderous thing if you happen to have one and enjoy having it sucked. That

    1. >>>Metal and queer-bashing…
      >>>A metal band and homophobic comments?

      Heey, don’t get too carried away there, metal in itself has nothing to do with homophobia and it itsn’t particularly juvenile or low-brow either. In this case unfortunate case, however, Blizzard chose a metal musician who indeed happens to be homophobic and generally immature, which is most disappointing for both a fan of video games and metal.

  3. How upsetting… More so at the comments from people (on the official forums and on gaygamer.net) saying that people are too sensitive about this and blowing it out of proportion. It is not. This is a valid flag for something really disturbing.

    Someone can be a bigot as much as they want, and say what they want to say (laws-willing), but the bigger issue is over this video being backed by these people and Blizzard. Tipping their hat, and condoning it by proxy as acceptance. There are so many reasons I do not like Blizzard and the content it provides in its games (or lack thereof in terms of diversity beyond stereotypes), but this really strikes another bold intolerance/privilege mark, imo.

  4. I just can’t find words for how upset I am right now.

    And of course what little I had the stomach to read on the forums was about equally split between more gleeful faction-bashing and stating how the “we’re sorry can’t take a joke” faux-apology is totally fine and enough. IT IS NOT. Not only that, no one seems to give a whit about the hatespeech used here and thus endorsed by Blizzard.

    Players can (at least in theory if a GM is in a generous mood and if someone who isn’t jaded and desensitized to the hatespeech reports it) be banned for this sort of thing. The fact that a Blizzard employee displays this shit freely at Blizzard’s biggest publicity event is more than a slap in the face, more than mind-boggling hypocrisy — it’s a confirmation of the long-held impression that they simply do not CARE, that the anti-hatespeech policy can’t be more than an obligatory figleaf, and that the only customer they value is the worst caricature of an adolescent messed-up straight asshole brat.

    It’s one thing for me to get upset about how they pervert everything in the lore that I ever cared about, that has made me stopped caring and hoping and only play the game for some good friends still. But for them to publicly endorse this sort of contempt for roughly half their players AND unrestrained hatespeed for minorities for whom the “community” is not a safe place already, not to speak of RL … that is just beyond words. :(

  5. Hey everyone. One of our writers, Denis, has had a powerful and very personal post related to this issue republished on Kotaku. You can read it here (trigger warnings apply). It goes without saying by now, but don’t read the comments; however, IF you feel up for it, consider expressing your support.

    1. That is one brave man, posting his very personal experience on that putrescent cesspit of a site. And it was very well put too. It may not be a “nice” thing to wish suffering on others, but I bloody well agree with him that those who keep flinging violent hate and threats at others would deserve it anyway, just to get the slightest inkling of what their “targets” have deal with all the time.

      Didn’t get far into the comments. I honestly cannot imagine what kind of utter scumbag someone has to be to reply to this kind of story with more hate — or even “just” with a shut-up-who-cares or a this-isn’t-the-place-for-this (translation: “screaming hate is fine, but don’t you dare to call us out on it”).

    2. I would actually recommend reading them, just be sure to check the featured filter. There are some encouraging things there.

    1. How predictable. The very second comment on it says “It was a bit of a silly issue to begin with, but it’s nice to see an official apology concerning it.”

      Silly. Issue.

      1. I’d like to believe that people are being dismissive about it because they’re missing the point and still thinking that it was about “Horde favoritism.”  Somehow, considering the backlash against the Q&A question, I suspect that that’s not the case.

    2. Much better. Now, if they could put it up on the website, that would be better (how many players read the forums, really?). And a real apology from the band of course.

  6. Well. This one sounds more genuine, but the fact that it was allowed to happen in the first place and then to be followed up with the non-apology isn’t something that can be so easily forgotten IMO, especially in the face of the general” community” attitude. The question is: have they actually gotten together, thought about it and arrived at an understanding of why this was so wrong? Has word been passed around why this is unacceptable? And what will come of this? If they are really “proud to be part of a huge and diverse community”, they need to show it. Saying sorry and actually meaning it is an important first step, but it shouldn’t the last and only step.

    … and of course half the comments on the first page are in the vein of, “more of this nonsense, just drop it because it wasn’t anything to be upset about anyway”. *sigh*

  7. The thingis is that anything any member from Cannibal Corpse does publically is not to be taken seriously. The band wants to provocative; it’s their marketing strategy. One could argue that the pr guys at Blizzard were a bit naive to include snippets from the singer in this video.

    1. Well, except that there’s nothing really provicative about hollering homphobic slurs at a gamer audience, not to the mainstream anyhow. We’re talking about the people who made tea bagging a thing here.

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